Who would you rather be Saturday night heading into their rematch, Miguel Cotto 36-2 (29) or Antonio Margarito 38-7 (27)? One fighter, Cotto, has to fight the demon inside knowing that regardless of whether or not Margarito hit him with loaded gloves, not much happened good for him when he hit Margarito. And then there's Margarito, who knows for certain whether or not he had the advantage of hitting Cotto with loaded gloves the last time.
In reality it's easier to continue on with the premise that Margarito did have an advantage and also knew it, which then leaves some doubt in his mind as to how badly he can damage Cotto this time when he does connect and land cleanly. Margarito has been in two high profile fights since he stopped Cotto back in 2008, and we know for a fact that he wasn't aided by any special hand wrappings against Shane Mosley and Manny Pacquiao. Is it a coincidence that he appeared less confident and took a shellacking in both bouts?
There can be no doubt that on the way to the ring Saturday night Cotto will be concerned about whether or not he can hit Margarito hard enough to keep him off of him, just as Margarito will wonder if he can break Miguel's will without the advantage he perhaps had the last time they met. They've both looked bad during their training for this fight, but based on everything that's gone on around them it would appear that Margarito owns the psychological advantage.
For me, the only intrigue of this fight is the mental aspect that both boxers will be forced to contend with. Because in reality they're both very damaged fighters who aren't nearly the same men they were mentally or physically when they crossed paths in 2008. Both have been beaten up and punched around the ring in subsequent fights and surely don't posses the fire and desire they once had. Based on what they've been through as fighters, they're now more civilized. Cotto is much more of a boxer and counter-puncher now and looks to get out of exchanges more than to initiate them. Margarito has always been a one trick pony who pushes the fight and is willing to take a few in order to get in position to land a few of his own hooks and uppercuts. Only he's slower and less effective doing it now.
Surely Cotto will use his feet and look to pick his spots while going for Margarito's repaired eye socket. Margarito knows this and will accept those terms for the chance to get near Cotto and try to bring his memory back to one July summer night back in 2008, the last time they shared the same ring. And to me, that gives Margarito a slight edge. And the reason for that is despite not knowing who's the more damaged and shot fighter, I do know that one of them (Margarito) wants to turn the bout into a war and the other one (Cotto) more than likely would like to keep it at a measured pace and let the better skill set determine the outcome. This shouldn't come as news to anyone including both fighters and therein lies Cotto's most formidable task, trying to bluff Margarito into accepting that he can't win.
Margarito being the boxer who wants the fight to become a bloodbath will approach it with less pressure because his only objective is to get to Cotto and re-impose himself physically as quickly as he can. On the other hand, Cotto has to score and fight as if he's not afraid to engage with Margarito. Miguel can't let Margarito see that he's the least bit worried about him trying to make it a war. Because if Cotto is too obvious in breaking off the exchanges and trying to get away, a fighter like Margarito will become a real bully and feed off of that and grow even more aggressive and determined. Boxing Margarito and trying to gain some of his respect is a must for Cotto. The question is - does he possess the needed tools to pull it off?
From a mental perspective, Margarito has the psychological edge going into this bout. The fact that Cotto is faster than he is along with being a better boxer and puncher doesn't concern Margarito. Antonio believes that Cotto doesn't want any part of him when it comes to trading and fighting it out. Granted, that may be selling Cotto short, but that doesn't matter to him. He is completely convinced that once he forces Cotto to break off the exchange and looks to get away, it's all downhill for him from that point on.
Regardless of how much Margarito may have declined as a fighter, he will have in front of him in Miguel Cotto a fighter who he believes that even without the loaded hand wraps he can break his will and make him believe he can't win, and that's big. As to the fighter I'd rather be, it's Antonio Margarito. But Miguel Cotto is too much of a warrior and professional to count out. Whatever Miguel has left as a fighter both mentally and physically, he'll leave in the ring on fight night.
The only question that remains to be answered is, is it enough to beat Margarito this time?
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV